What Is Self-Incrimination?


Quick Answer

Self-incrimination occurs when an individual exposes himself by making a statement that discloses involvement in a criminal prosecution or admits guilt to an accusation or charge of a crime, according to the Bill of Rights Institute. In criminal proceedings, the government cannot force individuals to testify against themselves.

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Full Answer

Self-incrimination is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which allows individuals to refuse to answer questions that may lead to an admission of guilt. The law resolves the conflict between telling the truth and defending oneself, according to the Bill of Rights Institute. Since the 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, the court has supported that police must inform any suspects that they have the right to refuse to answer questions or confess as it may be used at trial, according to the Bill of Rights Institute.

The Fifth Amendment provides further protection for suspects in that they do not have to voluntarily offer information during interrogation or questioning, although it does not protect individuals from refusing fingerprinting, blood or DNA tests, according to the Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute. Self-incrimination may occur intentionally or unintentionally when a suspect is questioned or offering information as a witness.

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